Spring Meeting at Monessen – Agenda

Spring 2014 Meeting of the Western Pennsylvania Section of the AAPT

Monessen High School

Monessen, PA


Agenda (may be modified at the discretion of the Executive Committee)

 8:00-9:00         Registration. Continental breakfast provided.

 9:00-9:15         Opening and Welcome Remarks

 9:15-9:30         Tucek, Ryan (Penn Trafford High School): Teaching Physics with Modeling Instruction

June 16 – July 3, Saint Vincent College will host a three-week, 14-day summer workshop to train high school teachers in the use of model-centered, constructivist method.Participants rotate through roles of students and instructor as they practice techniques of guided inquiry and cooperative learning. Plans and techniques for raising the level of discourse in classroom discussion and student presentations are emphasized.The workshop immerses teachers in physics (mechanics) content. All units are designed to promote understanding and improve student retention demonstrated by research on modeling methodology. Teachers commit to attending each day during the 3-week institute. Each teacher receives a flash drive containing the entire Modeling curriculum and a free one-year membership to the AMTA, 6 constant velocity buggies, and 10 white boards.

 9:30-9:45         Buxton, Gavin (Robert Morris University): The physics behind a simple demonstration of the greenhouse effect

A simple, and popular, demonstration of the greenhouse effect involves a higher temperature being observed in a container with an elevated concentration of CO2 inside than in a container with just air enclosed, when subject to direct light. The absorption of infrared radiation due to the enclosed CO2 is measured, and a one-dimensional model of heat transfer is solved. It is found that the temperature of the enclosed air is significantly higher inside the container with an elevated concentration of CO2 inside, validating this demonstration.

 9:45-10:00       Cho, Shinil (LaRoche): Questions always wanted to ask colleagues

There are several questions that many instructors would have while teaching physics at a small college.  With many factors including new discoveries in physics, development of technology, social/cultural change, different generations of students, and limited contact time, we have been changing the course content and the teaching methodology of general physics in various ways. Some examples will be presented to seek tips for better lecture and laboratory sessions.

 10:00-10:15     Antolin, Justin and Dieterle, William (California University of Pennsylvania): Physics on a Budget:  Calorimetric Determination of Laser Power

Commercial laser power ratings often are only approximations, with more attention being paid to the class of laser for safety purposes than to the actual (often varying by unit) wattage.  Photodiode detectors for exact measurements are beyond the budget of most small high schools and colleges. A method of measurement of laser power using a calorimeter commonly available in most departments is described and results are presented.

 10:15-10:30     Break

 10:30-10:45     Clark, Benjamin and Walters, Clifford (California University of Pennsylvania): Construction of a Working Plasma Speaker Using Readily Available Materials.

Using inexpensive readily available materials a portable working plasma speaker has been designed and constructed.  Theory, design, cost and safety issues will be discussed followed by a demonstration of the speaker itself.

 10:45-11:00     Freda, Ron and Sobelewski, Stan (Indiana University of Pennsylvania): The Effectiveness of Peer Instruction on Non-Science Students Enrolled In A Physical Science Class.

Peer tutoring, as developed by Eric Mazur and others has been shown to enhance conceptual understanding of Newton’s law of motion as measured by the Force Concept Inventory (FCI). In this method of instruction, multiple choice questions are presented to the class. Students offer individual responses either with an electronic personal response device or alphanumeric flash cards.  The instructor then reviews the responses; if a majority of the students did not select the correct answer, the instructor tells the students in the class to discuss their answer with their peers and vote again.  According to Mazur, the critical step in this process is the peer discussion.  In our study, we used two sections of Physical Science, a Physics course for non-science majors. When replicating the technique used by Mazur, we found not difference between peer tutoring and control group. We will discuss this result and offer other findings.

 11:00-12:00     Invited Presentation: Maries, Alexandru (University of Pittsburgh)

Alexandru Maries is the postdoctoral scholar for the Discipline-based Science Education Research Center (dB-SERC).  He obtained his Ph.D. recently in physics education research at University of Pittsburgh and will present findings relevant for teaching and learning of physics at all levels.

 12:00-1:30       Lunch

 1:30-1:45         Ritchie, Jessica; Li, Cash and Gasseller, Morewell (Mercyhurst): Scanning Tunneling Microscopy Investigation of Carbon Nanotubes and Gold                        Nanoparticles.

A scanning tunneling microscope (STM) is an instrument in which a sharp metallic probe scanned across a sample surface is employed to detect changes in surface features on an atomic scale. STM enables us to study surface structure, electronic structure and chemical properties of the surface at the atomic scale. Here we describe our ongoing work on the use of STM to study gold nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes deposited on Highly Ordered Pyrolytic Graphite (HOPG) and gold substrates.

 1:45-2:00         Hecking, Patrick (Thiel):  Micro-Scale Wind, Hydro, and Solar Energy Student Projects.

Research on micro-scale wind, hydro, and solar devices (10 W to 1 kW) makes for interesting student projects. Additionally, the exhibition of completed projects in a visible location on campus helps to educate the general college population about energy alternatives. Small water wheels have been tested using a rain gutter, and wind wheels using a fan. A solar panel is planned to drive a demonstration LEGO train, and a person-size water wheel has been constructed.

2:00-2:15         Reiland, Robert (CPEP): A Fabricated Universe.

An easy-to-make portable stretched sheet will be described and shown. In addition to the usual gravitational simulation with a weight on the sheet, a few other simulations will be suggested, including:

1. Dark Matter Seeding of the formation of the early universe

2. Gravitational Lensing

3. The storage of negative energy in gravitational fields.

Activities for all of these simulations are in the draft stage as part of future workshops to be offered by the Cosmology Division of the Contemporary Physics Educational Project. Correspondence concerning future drafts of these activities and suggestions for improvements will be welcome and can be sent to robreiland1@comcast.net.

2:15-2:30         Willson, Keith and Takahashi, Leo (Penn State Beaver): A Lecture Demonstration of the Einstein-de Haas Effect

In teaching physics, it is often more effective to show than to tell. With this in mind, we turn our attention to the Einstein – de Haas experiment, often referred to (incorrectly) as Albert Einstein’s only foray into the experimental side of physics. In a series of papers published in 1915 and 1916, Einstein and the Dutch physicist Wander Johannes de Haas presented their experimental work showing a connection between mechanical angular momentum and the magnetic moment and spin of particles. In this presentation we will show how this phenomenon can be demonstrated in a small classroom or laboratory setting using (mostly) commonly available materials.

2:30-2:45         Bradley, Bill (New Castle High School): Trebuchets as Physics Projects
I would like to present some of my experiences using Trebuchets as a project in first year Physics. This has been a popular project with my students and an interesting way to explore work, energy, and a surprising number of physics concepts.

 2:45-3:00         Martin, Kevin (Pitt Johnstown): Quantization in Music: An Interesting Take On How Fret Placement On A Guitar is Determined

The “pitch” interpreted by the ear of a sound is ultimately determined by the frequency (f) emitted by the instrument. For a stringed instrument, it is the frequency of the vibration. In general, the spectra of sound is continuous, but most (if not all), cultures have subdivided the octave (frequency from f to 2f) into a finite number of intervals (eight, twelve and sixteen appear common). For the “even-tempered scale” (twelve), it will be shown there is an interesting quantization rule that determines the placement of frets. This view can be useful when searching for an analogy for, say, the Bohr model of the hydrogen atom.

3:00-3:15         Late Abstracts and Break

3:15-3:30         Business Meeting, drawings, giveaways and other fun stuff.

Have a safe drive home!